Natthakritta Vongtaveelap goes into the final round at the LPGA Thailand with a four-stroke lead after another stellar display on Saturday, as heavyweights including Lydia Ko scrambled to stay in contention.
The 20-year-old, ranked 470th in the world, turned professional only four months ago and is contesting her first LPGA event after receiving an invite from a sponsor for the $1.7-million tournament.
On Friday she emerged from obscurity to grab a shock lead by the halfway point of the competition at the Siam Country Club in Pattaya.
She followed up Saturday with an emphatic message for the chasing pack by opening with an eagle and closing with a trio of birdies along with a bogey-free scorecard.
Natthakritta finished the day 20 under par after firing a 64 ahead of the final round on Sunday.
On the cusp of her first major professional victory, she told reporters she had dreamt about winning a title since childhood and hoped the enthusiastic local crowd would help push her over the line.
“Today was very big, but I tomorrow will be bigger,” she said.
She is four strokes ahead of her nearest rival, compatriot Atthaya Thitikul, who is a former world No 1 and was runner-up in the 2021 edition of the tournament.
Atthaya also carded 64 on Saturday including nine birdies.
“I have more confidence today,” Atthaya said, adding that she felt in a zone on the course and was not overthinking her game.
Top-ranked Ko, a New Zealander who has been in red-hot form, is seven shots off the lead. She shares seventh spot with three players, including Nelly Korda, the American world No 2, and South Africa’s Ashleigh Buhai, who shot a third-round 66.
“It was obviously a little bit difficult today with the wind being a little bit breezier,” said the 25-year-old Ko, who added that maintaining patience would be key on the final day. “I’m just going to stick to my own game plan.”
It was a topsy-turvy day for Korda, with an eagle and six birdies but five bogies littering her scoresheet.
“The bad was very bad today and then the good was pretty good, so I had a nice combo of both,” the 24-year-old said.
© Agence France-Presse